The primary care practices that are part of Tyrone Regional Health Network (TRHN), which includes, Tyrone Rural Health Center, Pinecroft Medical Center and Houtzdale Rural Health Center now offer patient appointments using telehealth services. The telehealth services are available to patients as an option and are in addition to the traditional in office appointments offered.

Telehealth is the use of technology such as videos and phone calls to connect healthcare providers and their patients. It allows patients to connect with their health provider for assessment, treatment, monitoring or education from the comfort of their own home. This is accomplished using technology that most people use daily such as a cell phone, laptop computer, desktop computer, ipad, a streaming service or other device.

Amy Vereshack, Vice President of Outpatient Operations who oversees TRHN’s primary care practices said the safest place for people to be right now during the COVID-19 pandemic, is in their own home. “Now, we have the technology to take care of people there. Most of us are already very accustomed to calling the doctor’s office if we need guidance for symptoms that we develop or need a prescription refill. Telehealth really expands on that type of exchange by adding video so you and your doctor can actually see each other,” said Mrs. Vereshack. “We can do most of what we normally do in the office over a video call.”

The doctor’s office communicates with patients in advance of their telehealth visit to provide access instructions. Telehealth visits have a copay just like normal offices visits. For patients who do not use electronic devices, they can talk to family members or friends to see if someone they know has a way to help them make a video call.

If through the video call it is determined that a patient needs to come to the office in person or needs to see a specialist, the doctor’s office will make a plan for that with the patient.

The communication between doctor and patient through the video call is secure to insure patient privacy.

Most insurances pay for telehealth visits just as they do for in office appointments.

In addition to the telehealth service, TRHN’s primary care offices have implemented additional procedures for patient protection and safety as follows:

When patients call to make an appointment staff will ask if you believe you have Coronavirus (COVID-19) or have been exposed to the virus, have traveled to a high risk area, or if you have any symptoms like cough, fever or shortness of breath.

For patients who need to visit the office for a face-to-face appointment, separate waiting and treatment areas are designated for patients who are well and those who are sick.

Patients with signs or symptoms of cough, shortness of breath, fever, positive exposure history or positive travel history will be seen in the parking lot. Patients will be given a dedicated cell phone number to call upon arrival and nursing staff and providers will see patients in the parking lot in order to minimize exposure.

To limit the number of people who enter the offices, patients are asked to please come to their appointment alone, if that is possible. One person may accompany a patient if the patient is a minor or if the patient has a caregiver who is essential for communicating with the patient’s provider. Anyone who accompanies a patient but does not need to remain with the patient during their appointment will be asked to wait in their vehicle.

For patients are scheduled for a routine follow up, a telehealth visit will be completed instead of a traditional face-to-face visit in the office until the COVID-19 crisis resolves. Our staff will be contacting patients to set this up.

Patients who use the patient portal provided by TRHN’s primary care offices will receive information about the telehealth services and the new procedures that have been implemented via the portal.

For more information or to make a telehealth appointment please call any one of TRHN’s primary care offices.

Tyrone Rural Health Center (814) 684-3101, Pinecroft Medical Center (814) 940-8195 or Houtzdale Rural Health Center (814) 497-4297.

Community members are reminded to take steps to protect themselves from illness as well as spreading illness to others. Wash your hands often. Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue that you discard or cough and sneeze into your elbow. Don’t touch your face. Clean surfaces often. Stay home when you are sick and avoid sick people. Social distancing is also recommended with people advised to limit their contact in public and in crowds to reduce exposure and the spread of illness.

People should also be aware of the signs of COVID-19 which include fever, cough and shortness of breath.